White House threatens veto if military budget has money for more F-22s


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May 6, 2009
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White House threatens veto if military budget has money for more F-22s | Business | Star-Telegram.com

WASHINGTON — Preparing for a possible showdown with Congress, the White House on Wednesday threatened to veto legislation authorizing a $680 billion military budget if it contains money for more F-22 jet fighters than the Pentagon says it wants.

The White House Office of Management and Budget said the $369 million that a House committee added to the bill as a down payment for 12 additional F-22 Raptors runs counter to the "collective judgment" of the military’s top leaders.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to end production of Lockheed Martin’s radar-evading F-22 after 187 aircraft have been built. Last week, in a preview of the White House’s veto threat, Gates called the funding boost a "big problem."

Gates has pointed to the F-22, which has not been used in Iraq and Afghanistan, as an example of a Cold War-era weapon that doesn’t fit well into 21st-century warfare against terrorist groups and other elusive threats.

But the F-22 has broad support on Capitol Hill. About 1,800 employees at Lockheed’s west Fort Worth plant work on the F-22, building its midfuselage. Other key parts are made in California, and final assembly is in Marietta, Ga.

The House Armed Services Committee narrowly approved the funding June 17. Republicans largely backed the measure introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and were joined by a handful of Democrats in a 31-30 vote.

The extra funding was adopted as part of the 2010 Defense Department spending bill markup. The bill still needs to make its way through the full House and Senate.

The F-22 is a twin-engine jet that the Air Force would use for air-to-air combat missions. Service officials say the aircraft can dominate wide swaths of airspace, a critical capability in areas that ground forces can’t reach quickly.

The White House statement came as the House was scheduled to begin debating the 2010 defense authorization bill, which also includes $130 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a 3.4 percent pay raise for service members.

Another provision in the House bill to which the White House strongly objects adds $603 million for a backup engine intended for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter.

The committee says the alternative engine is needed if the primary propulsion system has problems that might ground the aircraft. But the White House says the extra engine isn’t needed and will slow the fielding of the F-35, a single-engine aircraft to be used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

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